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Voter intimidation heats up as UCP, NDP election signs vandalized across Alberta

Campaign sign vandalism, press conference protests and hacked online election forums are making Alberta’s election process one of the most divisive in history, according to a political expert.

Signage from both the NDP and UCP has reportedly been vandalized, torn to pieces, run over and placed unsolicited on the front lawns of some property owners.

Mount Royal University political analyst Lori Williams says the negativity points to frustrations over the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire to silence or disparage the opinion of those who certain people may disagree with. 

"Sadly, it's become increasingly prevalent, and of course, it's going to be worse with such a competitive election," Williams said.

"It could have an effect on voter turnout because sometimes people get so disgusted with negativity that they don’t want to participate, but in other cases they’re so worried about this kind of animosity that it motivates them to go out and vote."

CTV News has received messages online and collected several examples on social media of signs that were cut in half, like that of UCP candidate Jon Dziadyk who is running in Edmonton-Castle Downs.

Another video sent in to the CTV Calgary newsroom also allegedly shows a man steal UCP signs from front lawns, place them in his vehicle and drive away. 

UCP candidate for Lethbridge-West Cheryl Seaborn has said she’s seen election signs pulled off of people’s private properties and thrown into trash cans.

In Calgary, NDP candidates Joan Chand’oiseau and Sarah Elmeligi havealso had their signs covered in graffiti in the ridings of Calgary-West and Banff-Kananaskis respectively.

The offices of NDP candidates CTV News spokes with have declined to comment on the issue, and say they're instead focus on the positives of their campaign, but UCP released the following statement:

"We’re experiencing an outpouring of support from across the province. We’ve had tens of thousands of requests for lawn signs in every corner of Alberta, and we are seeing more requests for signs on private property than in all of the 2019 campaign. 

"Elections are a time to discuss ideas. We don’t approve of anyone defacing campaign signs."

Other UCP candidates, like Rajan Sawhney are speaking out in defence of opponents.

In a tweet, Sawhney condemned the vandalism of signs for NDP candidate Michael Lisboa-Smith, who is running against her in Calgary-North West.

"I’m appalled to see this hateful behaviour and stand in solidarity with Michael in renouncing hate and bigotry," she tweeted.

According to Alberta law, anyone caught damaging an election sign can be charged with mischief to property and theft under $5,000.

Anyone who witnesses such actions can report them to their local police service or through Crime Stoppers.  


On Thursday evening, an online election forum held by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) of Southern Alberta was hacked and sabotaged via a zoom call.

CPAWS Executive Director Katie Morrison said inappropriate photos were placed on screen and the democratic debate between local candidates on environmental issues was temporarily delayed.

"It disrupted the event and the ability for people to feel safe in an environment to talk about these important issues," she said.

"Regardless of political affiliation, or regardless of where you stand on an issue, we need to have those conversations in respectful ways to be able to solve these issues and come up with new opportunities for conservation in the province."


In an age of social media and online campaigning, some may argue that the traditional election sign isn’t as effective as it once was, but some political experts suggest otherwise.

Vincent Raynauld, an affiliate professor of communication studies at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, says election signs still play an important role in the democratic process.

He notes that a multitude of signs in a particular area can influence the way someone may vote.

"It can have momentum, so for example, if you're taking a walk in your neighborhood and you notice that there's several lawn signs for one political candidate that are all over the place, then it can give the impression to a to a voter that maybe this candidate has a lot of support," said Raynauld.

"Sometimes people will vote with others too, so if you see a neighbor that you really like supporting a local politician then that may have an impact."

Raynauld adds that the defacing of signs also plays a role in the way people may vote, noting that public perception can influence support.

"So as much as the lawn signs in their pure form play a role, defaced lawn signs can also send a negative message to the electorate."